Choked by smog, Beijing creates new environmental police

A woman wears a mask as she walks past a construction site as smog continues to choke Beijing on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. The official Xinhua News Agency reported this week that the environmental ministry had given out punishments after finding that more than 500 construction sites and enterprises, including metallurgy, agricultural chemical and steel plants, and 10,000 vehicles had breached pollution response plans. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Chinese men wearing masks to filter the pollution walk on a bridge near building shrouded by fog and pollution in Beijing, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017. China has long faced some of the worst air pollution in the world, blamed on its reliance of coal for energy and factory production, as well as a surplus of older, less efficient cars on its roads. Inadequate controls on industry and lax enforcement of standards have worsened the pollution problem. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

BEIJING — Officials in Beijing have announced a new environmental police squad to root out illegal burning in the city, the latest government response to the widespread public anger over China's persistent problems with smog.

Beijing's acting mayor, Cai Qi, said at a meeting Saturday that the force would target open-air barbecues, garbage incineration and the burning of wood and other biomass, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

Cai announced several other measures, including a target of cutting the use of coal by 30 percent in 2017, and shutting down 500 higher-polluting factories and upgrading 2,500 more. About 300,000 high-pollution vehicles will also be restricted from entering the capital starting next month, he said.

Beijing and dozens of cities in China spend many winter days under a thick, gray haze, with air pollution levels that routinely exceed World Health Organization guidelines. Last week, more than 20 cities were on "red alert," the highest warning level in China's four-tiered system, while Beijing was on the second-highest "orange alert."

Smog is an acutely felt issue in China's cities, where a red alert can lead to the closure of schools and businesses, flight cancellations, and shutdowns of highways to keep cars off the roads. During a red alert in Beijing last month, authorities banned construction crews from spray-painting and even seized the charcoal grills from some restaurants.

But enforcement remains an issue. China's environmental ministry said during last week's red alert that its inspection teams found companies resuming production despite a government ban. Many factories remain under severe pressure to meet production targets regardless of air pollution.

Cai on Saturday blamed polluting activities like burning garbage or wood on "the result of lax supervision and weak law enforcement."

But China's pollution is caused chiefly by its thousands of coal-burning factories and a surplus of older, inefficient vehicles. While it tries to answer the loud public calls to tamp down on pollution, the Communist government is also grappling with an economic slowdown and the challenge of maintaining growth.

China is also the world's largest producer and consumer of coal, and measures like capping production days or shutting down older coal mines run the risk of driving up energy prices and further slowing the economy.

___

Associated Press researcher Henry Hou contributed to this report.

You may also interested in

China imports grow in August for 1st time in 2...

Sep 8, 2016

China trade showed unexpected strength in August in a positive sign for global economic growth

China says it can't end North Korea nuke program...

Sep 12, 2016

China says the United States has inflamed the conflict on the Korean Peninsula and must carry the...

China launches second space station, Tiangong 2

Sep 15, 2016

China has launched its second space station in a sign of the growing sophistication of its...

Global markets mixed after Wall Street loss

Dec 23, 2016

Asian markets are mostly lower while Europe has gained in early trading ahead of the Christmas...

Chinese delegation open to meeting Trump's team...

Jan 11, 2017

A Chinese official says President Xi Jinping's delegation to the World Economic Forum is open to...

People also read these

Global markets mixed after Wall Street loss

Dec 23, 2016

Asian markets are mostly lower while Europe has gained in early trading ahead of the Christmas...

China plans 30,000-km high speed rail network by...

Dec 29, 2016

The Chinese government is planning to expand the country's high-speed rail network to 30,000...

China begins to ease its 2,000-year-old monopoly...

Jan 3, 2017

China has started an overhaul of its salt industry, easing a monopoly that has existed in some form...

McDonald's sells China business in deal worth up...

Jan 9, 2017

Fast-food giant McDonald's is selling a controlling stake in its China business to a group of...

Chinese delegation open to meeting Trump's team...

Jan 11, 2017

A Chinese official says President Xi Jinping's delegation to the World Economic Forum is open to...

About Us

Frontal Report is an emerging leader in all forms of media. We aim to be the leading news brand for readers around the world.

Contact us: sales@frontalreport.com

Subscribe Now!